Sexually Transmitted Infections in Teens
What are sexually transmitted infections
Sexually transmitted infections
(STIs) are infectious diseases spread through sexual contact. About 50 out of 100
new STIs happen in people ages 15 to 24.
Protecting your teen from STIs
The best way to prevent your teen
from contracting an STI is to advise them to not have any type of sexual contact with
another person. But if they decide to be sexually active, or are currently sexually
active, there are several safety measures to follow. These are advised by experts to
help reduce your teen’s risk of getting an STI. They include:
Have a mutually monogamous
sexual relationship with an uninfected partner.
Use (consistently and
correctly) a male latex or female polyurethane condom, even for oral sex.
Reduce chance of HIV
infections by preventing and controlling other STIs. Having another STI makes it
easier to get infected with HIV.
- Strongly think about HIV prevention treatments, including:
prophylaxis). Taking medicines to prevent HIV within 72 hours after a
prophylaxis). Taking medicine regularly to prevent HIV infection if
exposed at a future risky sexual contact.
- PEP (post-exposure
- If you are going to have sex with someone who is HIV-positive,
be very sure the other person is taking their HIV medicines and that their viral load
is completely under control (undetectable).
Delay having sexual
relationships as long as possible. The younger a person is when they start to have
sex for the first time, the more susceptible they are to getting an STI.
Have regular checkups for HIV
Learn the symptoms of STIs.
Get medical help as soon as possible if you have any symptom.
Don’t have sex during
Don’t have anal intercourse.
Don’t use a male latex condom and topical microbicides.
What should my teen do if diagnosed with
Have your teen start
treatment right away. He or she should take the full course of medicines, and
follow their healthcare provider’s advice.
Tell all recent sex partners
and urge them to get healthcare checkups. If your teen does not want to do this
personally, your local health department can help.
Your teen should not have sex
while being treated for an STI. If your teen’s partner also needs treatment, they
should wait until their treatment is done as well.
Your teen should have a
follow-up test to be sure the STI has been successfully treated.
What are some common types of
Many STIs have been
identified. Common types of STIs include:
HIV. HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, destroys the
body’s ability to fight off infection. It is spread by unprotected sex with an
infected person. It’s also spread by contact with infected blood or contaminated
needles. People with advanced HIV infection are very susceptible to many
life-threatening diseases and to certain forms of cancer.
HPV. HPV is a common STI that
can cause genital warts. These can happen on the inside or outside parts of the
genitals and rectum. They may spread to the nearby skin or to a sex partner. HPV
infection does not always cause warts. So you may not know you are infected. Women
with an HPV infection have a higher risk of cervical cancer. Regular Pap tests can
find HPV infection, as well as abnormal cervical cells. An HPV vaccine is
available to help prevent cervical cancer and genital warts. This vaccine is
advised starting at age 11. But it can be given as young as age 9. Discuss this
with your child’s healthcare provider. There is treatment for genital warts. These
sometimes go away on their own. But the virus remains and warts can come back.
Some types of HPV can also cause warts (called common warts) on other body parts
such as the hands. But these do not generally cause health problems.
infections, the most common of all STIs, can affect both men and women. They may
cause an abnormal genital discharge, burning with urination, and rectal discharge
and bleeding. In women, untreated chlamydial infection may lead to pelvic
inflammatory disease (PID). This is an infection of the uterus, fallopian tubes,
and other reproductive organs. It causes symptoms such as lower belly pain.
Chlamydial infections can be treated with antibiotics. Unfortunately, many people
with chlamydial infection have few or no symptoms. The most common and serious
complications happen in women and include pelvic inflammatory disease, tubal
(ectopic) pregnancy, and trouble having children (infertility). Men may have
urinary symptoms or no symptoms at all.
Gonorrhea. Gonorrhea causes a
discharge from the vagina, penis, or rectum. It also causes painful or difficult
urination or bowel movements. The most common and serious complications happen in
women. These include pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy, and trouble
having children (infertility). Gonorrhea infections can be treated with
Genital herpes. Genital
herpes infections are caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). Symptoms may
include painful blisters or open sores in the genital or rectal area. First there
may be a tingling or burning feeling in the area. The herpes sores often go away
in a few weeks. But the virus stays in the body. And the sores may come back from
time to time. There is no cure for HSV. But there are antiviral medicines that can
shorten an outbreak and reduce symptoms.
Syphilis. The first symptom
of syphilis is a painless open sore. It is often seen on the penis, in the vagina,
or around either sexual organ. Untreated syphilis may go on to more advanced
stages. This includes a short-term rash. Over time, the heart and central nervous
system may be seriously affected. Syphilis infections can be treated with
Pelvic inflammatory disease
(PID). PID is a serious complication women can get from some STIs, such as
chlamydia and gonorrhea. PID is an infection of the uterus, fallopian tubes, and
other reproductive organs. It can cause lower belly pain. Later on it can cause
problems having children.
Other diseases that may be sexually transmitted include:
Oral ulcers (oral sex can
result in ulcers from gonorrhea or herpes)
Facts about STIs and teens
STIs affect men and women of
all backgrounds and economic levels. But nearly 50 out of 100 STI cases in the
U.S. happen in people younger than age 25.
STIs are on the rise,
possibly due to more sexually active people who have multiple sex partners during
Many STIs cause no symptoms
at first. And many STI symptoms may be confused with those of other diseases not
spread by sex, especially in women. Even symptomless STIs can be contagious and
can later cause long-term (chronic) or serious health problems.
Women suffer more frequent
and severe symptoms from STIs:
Some STIs can spread
into the uterus and fallopian tubes and cause pelvic inflammatory disease
(PID). This can lead to both infertility and ectopic (tubal) pregnancy.
Some strains of HPV
infection in women may also be linked to cervical cancer. In both women and
men, these strains may cause anal, head, and neck cancer.
STIs can be passed from
a mother to her baby before or during birth. Some newborn infections may be
successfully treated. Others may cause a baby to be permanently disabled or
Once diagnosed, many STIs can
be successfully treated. Some STIs, such as herpes, can’t be completely cured and
may happen again. But each recurrence can be prevented or treated.
Key ways to prevent transmission of HIV infection include PEP
within 72 hours of exposure and PrEP to prevent transmission if there is ongoing
risk. Also make sure that HIV-positive partners are under treatment and have their
virus under control.